Feb 13, 2015

    We let ourselves down, says Smalling


    MANCHESTER United defender Chris Smalling admitted his team's first-half performance had been unacceptable, after they overcame Burnley 3-1 to reclaim third place in the Premier League on Wednesday.

    The centre-back scored two goals, the first within 22 seconds of coming on as a fifth-minute substitute, but Louis van Gaal's side were outplayed for most of the first half by their relegation-threatened visitors.

    "The first half, we have to look at ourselves and make sure it never happens again," said Smalling. "It wasn't a 3-1 scoreline game, especially the first half. We let ourselves down from one to 11. We've got to play much better."

    United have now lost just once in 18 games, despite disquiet among fans about their style of play, and the much-publicised allegation that they adopted a "long-ball" approach in Sunday's 1-1 draw at West Ham United.

    But they required two set-piece goals from Smalling, either side of a Danny Ings equaliser, and a late Robin van Persie penalty to see off Sean Dyche's battling side.

    Although United manager van Gaal was also critical of his side's first-half display, he was defensive in response to claims from journalists that his players are generally not performing well.

    "I am not with your analysis," said the Dutchman. "You are assuming we are not playing well. I have only said that this match was not good, and we have played now 16 or 17 matches with only one loss and with a lot of goals in favour, so I don't think that every match is not attractive and that we are not playing attacking football."

    However, he did admit to being concerned by the fact that United's supporters seemed displeased with many aspects of the performance.

    "Yes, that is a concern because we are playing for the fans," he said. "The fans are the most important part of the club. They keep the club living."

    Although they left Manchester without a point, second-bottom Burnley had many admirers, especially for their forward Ings, who was superb in a losing cause.

    "He was sensational," said Dyche. "He was first-class. He is a very, very talented player."